Standing at the bottom of the Air & Style jump in Beijing this past December, watching the warm-up runs for the first major snowboarding contest of the winter, a team manager turned to me and said, "I'm already sick of the double cork 1080. It's going to be a long season."
He was joking, kind of. If you look at the double cork in halfpipe snowboarding, you see how one trick has a tendency to dominate once it's been established as the one to beat. We thought the double cork 10 was it. But it turns out the joke was on us. How were we to know that this was going to be one of the most exciting, progressive years in kicker-trick snowboarding?
And now here we are at the Winter X Europe -- the last major contest of the season. Looking back, we've seen almost every variation of double cork 10 and 12, a cab 1440, a cab 14 double cork, a triple cork, a triple backflip and a triple cork 14. Instead of talking about new tricks that we might hope to see this week, let's talk about the tricks the top guys have already pulled, that if we're lucky we'll get to see again.
"I really like the way Mark McMorris does his cab double 12," says Seppe Smits, a ripper from the flat country of Belgium who has been rocking the TTR tour this year, but has never competed in a Winter X until now. Smits is one of the only competitors on tour who does most of his tricks flat (noncorked), and set a benchmark at the Air & Style Innsbruck by landing the first cab 1440, flat, in competition.
"It's definitely not a trick you can do on whichever jump," says Smits of the 14. "It has to be decent sized, with a lot of air time. I think it's a big air trick, more than one I would do in slopestyle, so I don't know if I'll be doing it at Euro X. My go-to tricks are backside 12 and cab 12s. But you never know. If everything is perfect ..."
"Peetu Piiroinen's backside double cork 10," Sage Kotsenburg says, is his favorite. "It's one of the best I have ever seen: poked out, good style, and stomped every time. Second is Mark McMorris' cab double 12 nose -- no one else does that grab and it's just cool-looking."
Kotsenburg made history by throwing the first cab double cork 14 in a competition at the Air & Style as well. "I was up against Seb [Toutant]. What else was I going to do?" Sebastien Toutant knows every double cork 12 variation there is, prefers to do the tricks switch, and hardly ever even comes close to falling.
"I threw [the cab 14 double] first try and stomped it miraculously, and ever since then I've been stoked to try another," Kotsenburg says. "I can land cab double 12 and back double 12 almost every try so those are my stock, yet very, very good run tricks. The double 14 is like my white-stallion-knight-in-shining-armor trick."
"I can do a backside 14 double cork," says Mark McMorris, whose recent landing of the first-ever backside triple cork 1440 has rocketed him to instant snowboard fame. "But honestly, I don't want to have to do triples and 1440s in a slopestyle contest. I'll do two double cork 12s and a double 10 in a run, and it's pretty hard to do just that. It's a pretty technical run. Really, I'm just stoked to just do 10s and 12s."
Stoked to "just" do 10s and 12s. McMorris, Smits, Toutant and Kotsenburg are just some of the heavy hitters coming to say goodbye to their slopestyle competition season at WXE. TTR World Tour champion Piiroinen and U.S. Open slopestyle winner Eric Willett will be joining them as well. Even if we don't see a 14, it's sure to be a showdown.